Despite great distance, the message of the Jubilee can be transmitted through radio waves. Mercy can also be aired. In Ethiopia the local Church has decided to make use of all available tools to spread knowledge on the themes of the extraordinary Holy Year indicted by the Pope Francis, and encourage others to put it into practice. In particular, the Bishops’ Conference has decided to transmit, through its Executive Secretariat (ECS, dedicated programs on some on the major national radio networks.
A universal message. Three radio networks in particular, those with the highest audience figures, have aired most of the programs in Aramaic – the official language, commonly spoken throughout the various communities of Ethiopia –. “They are lay networks – Makeda Yohannes, spokesperson of the Secretariat, told SIR – but during Christmas holidays or the Epiphany they devote larger slots to programs dedicated to the Christian population, so we decided to concentrate our messages in that period
The choice of the channels and of this communication media was not incidental – Yohaness pointed out – In fact, it responds to the mission of the Church for the Holy Year, highlighting at the same time its overarching feature.”
“Following the words of the Holy Father we decided to communicate the message of Mercy not only to Catholics but also to all people of good will, that is, the population as a whole. That’s why we have opted for a media tool like the radio, that can be easily accessed throughout the Country. While Ethiopian communities living across the borders can listen to the programs through live streaming online”, explained the ECS spokesperson.
Precious media. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate means for large-scale transmission of a message in a Country of over 100thousand square kilometers, with a population of almost 100 million people, also given the conditions that range from those of the capital Addis Abeba – a hub of important projects aimed at the expansion and modernization of infrastructures – to rural areas with a very poor level of services.
Moreover, radio waves reach even the most remote areas of Ethiopia. In fact, throughout the years they have been used to transmit important messages in areas where in some cases nine in ten people have no access to television and newspapers.
Healthcare awareness campaigns, agriculture and literacy projects, even initiatives for the resolution of local conflicts, that have involved the smaller “community radios” whose programs are directed to minor local communities or are aired in small territories. The ECS initiative thus decided to give a national bearing to that philosophy. In fact, although Ethiopian Catholics are but a small minority, approximately 11% of the overall population, most of whom are members of the local Orthodox Church, or Muslims, the message has virtually been conveyed to all citizens”, said Makeda Yohannes. Concrete action. The invitation to all the population without distinction of belief, continued the spokesperson, “was to celebrate the holy days with concrete actions.” This appeal is a direct response to Pope Francis’ bull of indiction of the extraordinary Holy Year Misericordiae Vultus, in which, quoting passages from the Gospel of Matthew and the words of Saint John of the Cross, His Holiness invites everyone to put into practice corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Church’s initiative has linked to that theme also another aspect of the papal magisterium, which is that of the environment, which holds special significance in the Country. At a time when Ethiopia is suffering the impact of draught, that caused a 90% crop reduction in many areas of the Country, ECS has decided to focus attention also on the encyclical Laudato si’ and the related theme of climate change. This approach is planned to be replicated in other similar programs that are already been planned, as confirmed by Makeda Yohannes: “We would like similar initiatives to continue, especially to spread the social doctrine of the Catholic Church through the media – Yohannes said – There is a great amount of information, many initiatives and messages, inside the Church, that ought to be shared with everyone.”